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THE COMOROS & NORTHERN MADAGASCAR

Sunday 23rd September - Friday 19th October 2012

Pete Morris

The stunning Madagascar Red Owl (Pete Morris)

The stunning Madagascar Red Owl (Pete Morris)

This was our second tour to explore some of the more remote areas of Northern Madagascar and the Comoro Islands, and I’d like to say that with the experience of the first tour under the belt, logistics this time round were much easier. And to a large degree, that was the case. A couple of serious curveballs were thrown at us by the airlines, but thanks to some great back-up in the office, we overcame these and even came out on top with a surprise visit to the French Island of Réunion as a bonus! We had to put up with a few hardships, as one would expect when travelling to areas as remote as we were visiting, but overall, I think it’s fair to say that the trip was a terrific success. We recorded a total of 209 species, not a huge total, but it included nearly all of the birds we were after. It was an excellent tour for globally threatened species, with 37 (18%) of the species recorded being listed as of conservation concern, with five of them being listed as critically endangered, and a further 12, endangered! So what were the highlights? No doubt rarities on Madagascar that will stick in the mind include the amazing Helmet Vanga, Bernier’s Vanga, the seldom-seen Amber Mountain Rock Thrush, the recently re-discovered Madagascar Pochard, the rarely seen Madagascar Red Owl and the excellent Sakalava Rail. On the Comoro Islands, the clean-sweep of all of the endemics (apart from the sometimes-split Comoro Green Pigeon) was very pleasing, and good views of them all to boot! Getting all four of the endemic scops owls fixed in the spotlight beam again was perhaps the single most satisfying achievement (even if Anjouan Scops-Owl was a nightmare!), but other great birds included the electric blue Comoro Blue Vanga, the rare Grand Comoro Drongo, the plentiful but attractive Comoro Blue Pigeon and the distinctive Comoro Cuckoo-Roller. We saw plenty of other great wildlife too including many fabulous species of lemurs, and an amazing selection of reptiles and amphibians that included the world’s smallest chameleon! Our few bonus hours on Réunion yielded all of the endemics bar one and gave us great views of hundreds of spectacular Barau’s Petrels!

The critically endangered Moheli Scops Owl (Pete Morris)

The critically endangered Moheli Scops Owl (Pete Morris)